On This Day

Robert Musil

Author Robert Musil

Profession: Author


Biography: Musil was an Austrian author known for his novel, ‘The Man Without Qualities.’ While Musil never finished this novel, it is nevertheless regarded as one of the high watermarks of modernist literature.

At the time, he was largely neglected; with the published parts of his work respected and yet failing to achieve anywhere near the praise that has since followed.

The novel itself falls somewhere between philosophy and literature, with the protagonist, Ulrich—the eponymous ‘man without qualities’—taking a tour of ideas in the setting of an Austro-Hungarian Empire in terminal decline.

This emphasis reflects Musil’s focus throughout his works, which was the crisis of values in Europe contemporary to his writing.

When Thomas Mann, a more famous friend and admirer of Musil, was asked to name what he thought were the greatest among contemporary novels, he gave only one: Musil’s ‘The Man Without Qualities.’

Mann further initiated the creation of the Robert Musil Society to support Musil’s work, as he had failed to achieve commercial success commensurate to the high opinions of a select few.

While Musil’s work was almost forgotten—with the last years of his life occluded by the rise of Nazism, World War II, and the banning of his books—he has since been rediscovered and, after a first English translation in the 1950s, has had subsequent success.

Born: November 6, 1880
Birthplace: Klagenfurt, Austria-Hungary
Star Sign: Scorpio

Died: April 15, 1942 (aged 61)
Cause of Death: Stroke

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